Welcome to Chicago Newsroom

Welcome to the Chicago Newsroom home page and archive.

The big idea behind Chicago Newsroom is that we assemble involved, knowledgeable people around the table and we yack about the week’s local news. Most often we tap journalists, but you’ll also find historians, political activists, academicians and newsmakers in the mix, too.

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Thanks for watching!

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CN Sep 22 2016


On the morning after Mayor Emanuel’s highly-promoted speech on crime and safety, there’s a broad range of reactions. And it seems fair to say that most reactions are in some way or another critical.

We recorded our program a few hours before the speech, so the comments of our panelists were limited to the things we already knew about the Mayor’s address, such as his plan for 970 new hires at the police department.

Dahleen Glanton’s been writing for the Tribune for almost 30 years. This year she became a columnist. She has deep roots in the issues,  history and culture of Chicago.

“I think one of the most important elements is police training,” she tells us. “And I don’t care what race you are, you have to know how to deal with these kind of situations because African American cops are kind of under the same pressure as white cops, and there have been some shootings involving some minority cops. So to me the key has to be to make sure that these cops get the proper support and the proper training to be able to do their jobs.”

Glenn Reedus has been a Chicago journalist, writer and editor for decades.

He agrees that there is a call in parts of the African American community for increased police presence. But, he cautions, “there’s a huge number of elements. There’s the inability to get a job because of something that happened in the past. There are substandard services. There are substandard products in your community. You live in the City, the job is in the suburbs, you don’t have a way to get to the suburbs. There’s just no one or two things you can put your finger on and say this is what’s wrong.”

And the aforementioned training is, in itself, controversial. What kind of training? Mayor Emanuel has called for an emphasis on “de-escalation” techniques, and wants mandatory classes  in the procedure to begin quickly.

“Just two days of training?” Reedus asks. “This is not about these guys not knowing how to speak to people. It’s about these guys who grew up in a place where black folks were looked down upon and they carried that with them…so two days, what’s that going to be, 16 hours and suddenly you’re going to talk to people calmly because you’ve gone through this training and they’re having an episode?”

The Mayor is also seeking funding for $30 million in mentoring for “every 8th, 9th and 10th grader” in the 20 highest crime areas of the city. One of the most often-mentioned mentoring groups is Becoming a Man.

“It’s helpful, putting some resources to BAM I think is helpful,” Reedus says. “At the same time, I don’t know if kids who are seeking, boys who are seeking mentoring are the ones who are out in the street doing the dirt. And then you give it to that select group mentors, but what about the older folks? And I’ve talked about Cease Fire incessantly. I love Cease Fire. That’s where big chunks of money need to go, because you can get an immediate impact.”

“You know, one of the things I think we forget is how smart these guys are,” adds Glanton. “I mean they watch what is happening in this City. They know that the police are not making as many arrests. They know that people are not, crimes are not being solved.  They know they can get away with these things, so there is no reason to stop because you’re not going to get caught, and that’s frightening to me.”

Glanton has written of her conditional support for stronger gun laws, a key issue for the Mayor and police department. It’s possibly the most hotly debated issue in the police-reform discussion, and it has been opposed by most black state legislators because they say it simply provides a pathway for sending more young African Americans into the penal system.

“I think there has to be a middle point on this,” Glanton asserts. “I am just as concerned as everyone else about young people getting trapped in this cycle of prison. I don’t think that’s a good thing. But, isn’t there some way where we could say after the first or even maybe the second event that you go to jail for the maximum if you are caught with an illegal gun? I don’t know why that would be a problem. I mean maybe someone else does, but to me if you want to get these repeat offenders off the street you have to do that. Now, for the young people and anybody else who needs it after that first offense, maybe there’s counseling, maybe there’s intervention, maybe there’s whatever it is you might want to participate in, but if you keep doing it you need to go to jail. And I don’t see why that’s an issue.”

And Reedus agrees that there’s an immediate need to get the most violent offenders off the streets.

“One of the things that we know about some of these offenders is that they are repeat offenders, and especially with the gun situation, so yeah, if you can lock up someone who has been involved in a shooting before, get that person off the street then of course it’s going to impact the numbers in the long-run, I think.”

“I mean, we’re losing a whole generation of young men,” Reedus adds, “and they are recruiting younger kids, and that’s why I think expanding the BAM program is so important because these kids are getting involved in this younger and younger.”

You can read a complete transcript of the show HERE: cn-transcript-sept-22-2016

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CN September 15 2016

We take a step back today to attempt a look at the big picture. And our guide is Daniel Kay Hertz, proprietor of the City Notes blog. 

What are the big problems facing Chicago to which we’re not paying attention? De-densification, for example. What are the big changes happening in Chicago that are flying under the radar? How about fascinating population shifts as lots of Chicagoans move to the suburbs (yes, that’s still a thing) and other groups fill in the vacant spots?

And what’s the future of the Loop Link Transitway? Is it succeeding? What happened to the Ashland Bus Rapid transit? Will the CTA ever build that Red Line extension to 13oth? Can Metra save the suburbs from themselves? He’s an avowed bus fan, and he laments the falling numbers for Chicago’s bus system.

Daniel Hertz is a City Nerd. He studies data, maps and trends. And he shares his insights with us, for almost an hour. If you love discussions about urban policy and planning in Chicago and the region, this show’s for you.

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CN September 8 2016

Chicago, sadly, is right at the 3,000-people-shot-this-year mark.

We talk about it today with the Reader’s Sarah Macaraeg, who co-wrote, along with Allison Flowers, the deeply-researched article Charged With Murder, but They Didn’t Kill Anyone, Police Did.

Legendary Chicago journalist Laura Washington’s with us today, too. She works for both the Sun Times and ABC7.

Here are some highlights from our conversation, along with time posts to find them in the video.

Laura Washington on Police Supt. Eddie Johnson:

(3:20) He inherited a nightmare job. Thank God it was him. As we know there was supposedly a hiring process, a selecting process that went somewhat awry because the Mayor chose not to pick from the Police Board recommendations, but we got to Johnson and he’s got an…to me an unsolvable job. I mean he can’t do what he’s been charged with doing, which is to bring the crime levels down, but I think one of the most important things he’s done is he’s acknowledged unlike his predecessor Garry McCarthy, he’s acknowledged that the crime is out of control. He’s acknowledged the Police Department has not been able to deal with it. And up until now there’s always been conversations about the numbers and spinning, and it’s not as bad as it appears to be. The most important thing I think he’s done too is say it’s not just our problem, it’s a social problem, it’s a gun problem and we have to work on solving this together.

Sarah Macaraeg reacts to public defender Amy Campinelli’s op-ed in the Tribune

(9:43)in her op-ed she lays out the results of the war on drugs, how all of that increased criminalization, how all of those increased policing has really sort of built-up a prison industrial complex that has really disappeared, you know generations of black and Latino young men. And she raises the question of why would a war on…how would a war on guns have different results, and then she points to deeper underlying problems.

Macaraeg on aldermanic calls for 500additional police officers

(11:40)  what if it wasn’t just a matter of you know, 500 police, but 500 social workers? And what if it wasn’t just having a presence, but it was also like okay, a presence, and also a presence in school, and then also scholarships, and a whole pathway to success instead of pathways to criminalization?

Washington on the need for improved training at CPD

(12:46) I was talking early this week with Rudy Nimocks. I don’t know if you remember that name.  He was a top deputy superintendent during the Harold Washington years…He talks about the changes he’s seen in terms of police work. And what he talks about needing more now than ever is frankly better training and better orientation of cops with the community. He goes back on the community policing issue, he was doing community policing before they called it community policing, and he talks about how cops are hunkered, as we all know they are hunkered down now, they don’t talk to people anymore. They don’t connect. They’re afraid. The citizens are afraid of the cops and the cops are afraid of the citizens, and he says until you break that down you can put another 500 or another 1,000 cops on the street… it’s so easy to grab at the obvious solution. We can put more money that we don’t have into additional cops, but what about all these other extenuating circumstances. If we don’t do something about these other issues, if we don’t do something about the community policing aspect, the relationship aspect, the 1,000 cops are not going to be any more effective than the ones that ones that went before them….it’s going to take years to get these people trained and on the streets, if you don’t train them properly, if you don’t engage them properly, if you don’t send the message that you can’t go out there and be cowboys anymore, you’ve got to work with the community, we may still be in the same place

Macaraeg discusses her Reader article about the Felony Murder Rule

(21:30) In Cook County in the last five years there are ten instances, at least ten instances in which a civilian has been charged with murder for a killing that was committed by police…in all of these instances, there was an incident in which a person died and that the homicide occurred as a result of police action, shooting or a fatal police chase. So it was widely recognized, and yet through Illinois criminal code the State’s Attorney pressed charges against people for first degree murder. And that all takes place under a very controversial legal doctrine called the Felony Murder Rule, and that posits that in the commission of a felony, and some of these were alleged felonies, but in the commission of a felony someone sets out to commit a felony, in doing so they set in motion a chain of events that led to the death of the other person.

Washington on the critical role the State’s Attorney plays in deploying “felony murder” charges

23:40)  we’ve been hearing this for years, but particularly during this most recent State’s Attorney’s race with Anita Alvarez, we’ve heard that there is a closeness, there is a familiarity, there is a collaboration between the police and the State’s Attorney’s office. They tend to advocate for the police’s point of view. That’s why we ended up with a disaster around Laquan McDonald, the lack of prosecution in that case.

Washington on the power-position in which Eddie Johnson finds himself right now

(28:30)  I think Eddie Johnson has tremendous amount of leverage, and I think part of the reason is what I alluded to before about the way he came in. You know Rahm bypassed the system, bypassed the process to bring i his guy. He owns this guy, but Eddie Johnson in some ways because of that owns him. He didn’t need this job.

You can read a full transcript of this program in Word format HERE: cn-transcript-sep-8-2016


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CN September 1 2016



Troy LaRaviere resigned this week from his position as principal at Blaine Elementary. That’s not big news, since he had already won election as the president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. But his resignation cleared the deck at Blaine, allowing the school to move on and find a new permanent principal. And it eliminated the likelihood a public spectacle as he fought CPS and Mayor Emanuel, who had tried to fire him for “political activity” while he was the highly-regarded principal.

It’s generally accepted that LaRaviere was punished because he began speaking out vey publicly about what he considered to be wrong-headed policies enacted by  CPS and the Mayor.  It all began on May 10, 2014, when LaRaviere posted a scathing critique of the Mayor in a Sun-Times Op-Ed. It’s no longer available at the Sun-Times Web site, but you can read it HERE.

Ben Joravsky is a political columnist for the Chicago Reader, who’s been covering Chicago, its mayors, its communities and city council for decades.

Both are our panelists on today’s show.

A few highlights:

LaRaviere on the devastating effects of so-called school-based budgeting on Chicago’s schools

It’s a way to reduce funding in the schools and then shift the blame for the consequences onto the principal who has to make the decisions about what to cut. So it helps them to 1) reduce the funding, and take the funds and divert them; and 2),  take less blame for it because you can say, well, I didn’t cut the position, the principal cut the position. But the principal didn’t have a choice.

Joravsky on the potential for change represented by LaRaviere’s election to the Principals Association

Ben: This is where Troy’s group has the potential to really be a game-changer in Chicago because principals have always lined up behind whatever cockamamy ideas have come out of City Hall. But if principals stop doing that, politically it may be harder for the mayor to sell these ideas, whether it’s a longer school day, changing the school formula, or privatizing janitorial services so we end up with dirtier schools than we had before…if principals speak out and oppose these positions…then maybe we could see some change in Chicago.

LaRaviere:  Emanuel’s policies impede recruitment

It is important for us as principals to be able to recruit good people into our schools. And we cannot recruit good people, or our ability to do that will be far less, if the Mayor gets his way in Chicago and devalues the value of teaching and learning in Chicago and continues his anti-teacher narrative. No-one wants to work in a district where the mayor has this anti-teacher narrative and blames them for his own fiscal mis-management. And says they have to be held responsible because the politicians we all elected threw away their pension money building  schools.

LaRaviere on the CTU

In order to stand firm they’re going to have to feel like they have some public support. And they’re gonna have to generate it with talking points that are more effective, and get repeated more often, than the ones the Mayor repeats. They have their talking points. They repeat them relentlessly. So I’ll be on the street and I’ll hear someone say, oh, yea, the teachers should pay into their (pension), without understanding what’s behind that talking point, and the falsehoods that are behind that talking point. So they have to come up with points that are just as succinct. That actually explain the truth of the matter and could get public support behind them standing firm on the respect due to the people who educate the children of Chicago. Respect in the form of their working conditions and their compensation.

LaRaviere’s response to a question about whether the Mayor, whose position on policing and community relations has shifted siginificantly in the past few months, might also change his views about education policy

Only if the people force him to. Because he didn’t pivot on the police. He came out with his “lone officer” theory and the only thing that changed it was the uproar and the protests in the streets and the call for his resignation. And he came back a little softer and a little more willing to admit something might be wrong. It didn’t work. There was still an uproar in the streets, and that uproar caused a national call for his resignation. And then there was the famous City Council speech. He’ll go as far as the public pushes him. That goes back to my point about CTU and their talking points and their advocacy and the relationship-building with different organizations across the city that care about eduction to push him the way those protesters – and create the kind of uproar – the kind of critical mass of public support for their position. That’s the only thing that’s going to change the Mayor.

Joravsky’s response to the same question

The Mayor’s attitude toward police and his attitude toward education are dramatically different. If you just look at his first four years, the Mayor acted as though the issue of the police relationship with poor black communities was a non-existent issue. It didn’t matter to him. Everything changed with the release of the LaQuan McDonald video. It wasn’t even the shooting that changed people’s attitude, because it was the release of the video that totally undercut whatever the mayor was saying about him. In terms of education, the mayor ran into office with a very proactive point of view, which was essentially, shift from public schools to charter schools, be tougher on teachers, try to whittle away at tenure, move more money under his direct control. So I think it’s gonna be harder to get the Mayor to have a conversion on education. Because politically he thinks it’s to his advantage to be hard on teachers. To use principals as props. He just figured there was no point in getting involved in the police matters – there’s no way to win it politically – so just ignore it. Pretend it wasn’t there. And then when he couldn’t pretend it wasn’t there any more he started inventing policies. So, you know, these problems have been around forever. Well, didn’t they exist the first for years you were Mayor? So…I think it’s gonna be harder to get the Mayor to change his ways in terms of education, because I think politically he believes (not changing) will benefit him.

You can read a full transcript HERE: CN transcript Sept 1 2016

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CN August 25 2016


The CPS Board was very busy yesterday. They passed a $5.4 billion operating budget, along with  a basket-ful of big-ticket borrowing. There was about a billion for capital projects like new schools and additions, air conditioning and internet upgrades and lots more. Then there was the billion-and-a-half for a short-term loan just to get the system’s cash-flow in order.

Juan Perez, Jr watches and reports on all of this for the Chicago Tribune.

He tells us that the budget has lots of problems. First, there’s the $215 million that the State has promised, and the Board has budgeted to spend, although it isn’t coming unless the Governor agrees that there’s been “pension reform.” But nobody really knows what that means.

“I asked different sets of people about what this grand bargain on pension reform might entail and I get three different answers sometimes,” Perez explains. You know the rules of the game haven’t really been established with enough clarity to satisfy me at this point, or I think a lot of other people. I think different folks are convinced of what the idea might be. Would it be Cullerton’s consideration idea? Would it be getting downstate teachers to pay more into TRS? But there’s so many factors here  and this is an election year not to mention. So what is going to satisfy the Governor? Ultimately it’s got to get his signature…”

And, he says, time is really getting short. “But there needs to be an answer here soon, otherwise you know the district is in all likelihood going to have to come through with some serious level of cuts. And let’s be honest here, this operating budget has already relied on a lot of cuts to schools that we have no reason to believe are fake in any way. I mean schools are expressing a lot of pain coming from this.”

But that’s not all.  CPS baked about another $35 million into this cake that has to come from concessions in the CTU contract, and nobody seems to know how that’ll go, either.

“Is there a deal in sight?,” he wonders. “I don’t know. I think Karen Lewis recently expressed some optimism to me that talks were going pretty well, but that the framework of this deal that CPS offered in late January wasn’t going to fly with members…but the district has sought to make its position very clear that there is not a lot of fiscal flexibility as far as whatever its contract offer might be. So you know, that sounds like an impasse to me, potentially.”

The big question is whether the Union is willing to strike, or could sustain a lengthy one. “If they want a strike what is it that they’re going to walk out on? How are they going to justify it and then how are they going to bring the members back in, too? Especially if the school district and the Mayor’s office are going to continue asserting that the financial framework of what they tried offering back then is going to have to stay pretty rigid.”

But beyond all that, says Perez, that short-term 1.5 billion dollar loan is so huge that it’ll cost about $35 million in interest.

“There is no way this budget works. There is not enough cash on hand to pay bills as they come in without this line of credit – without 1.555 billion dollars in short-term debt. It’s akin to a payday loan,” he explains.

“The basis of the problem is the reserves have been all but completely exhausted. That’s why the Board erected this financial policy back in 2008,” he tells us. “They had wanted this on hand so they could avoid these sort of peaks and valleys as best they could. Those days are over.”


However, things really are different this year. There are permanent funding sources in place, in the form of new dedicated tax levies for pensions and physical plant improvements. And even in Springfield, there are hints of actual commitments.

“…there are some differences in the dynamics, I suppose,” asserts Perez.”You actually have legislation that’s passed. You actually have commitments from legislative leaders saying we’re going to get this done. But remember, we’re banking on Springfield. We’re banking on the Capitol. We’re banking on a Capitol that’s in some serious dysfunction right now.”

And the legislators do have a powerful incentive.  “…they all want to get re-elected. I mean we’re presuming that they all want to get re-elected. So things are reaching a point potentially where there’s enough pressure that they know that if this doesn’t come through there’s going to be a real problem.”

We also discuss the new CPS policy that co-mingles funding for special education students with the general education budgets. Some observers are saying that the policy forces principals to choose between the two populations, but principals are told they must satisfy the special-ed needs first. Perez says it puts principals in a difficult position with the school’s parents.

“The question is whether the slice of the pie that I’ve been given now to pay for this is A) substantial enough to cover all the needs of my special education students, B) whether I’m going to have to dip into other funds that are meant for other purposes to help make that work before taking care of my general education population, before taking care of the rest of my students. And so when you’re sitting here in the school office with your ledger trying to make the numbers work, oftentimes that leaves principals with a very difficult decision, and I think that’s what a lot of the pushback that you’re seeing from the community right now, like how is this actually going to work? And what ultimately happens, some folks are saying, is that it creates, or has at least the potential to create, a schism within a school community, where the needs of one population are pitted against the needs of another population.”

You can read a full transcript of this show in Word format HERE:CN transcript Aug 25 2016

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CN Aug 18 2016


“Milwaukee has such an extremely high unemployment rate for black men,” explains NPR’s Cheryl Corley, having just returned from covering the unrest there over the past few days. “They have the highest incarceration rate in the country for black men, and so you have all of these problems that exacerbate the kind of situation that happens there and it really frustrates people, so you have this kind of powder keg kind of waiting to explode. So when these things do happen in communities you see what happened with the riots that broke out there, the arson that occurred. There’s no excuse for that sort of thing happening, but you have the conditions there that make it happen.”

We’re talking about the similarities between Chicago and its northern neighbor, and trying to see what we might have in common.

“These are things that are created by forces bigger and stronger than the police,” asserts Black Star Project‘s Phillip Jackson. “And then after these problems are created they send in the police to tamp down the communities of violence. The police have no chance of succeeding in that situation, none.”

“On this past 4th of July weekend last year 65 people were shot in Chicago,” he continues. “And so Superintendent Johnson ramps up and he brings in 5,000 additional officers, the State Police, Cook County Sheriffs, Chicago Policemen who would have been off. He brings in 5,000 additional officers, and they call it success, because instead of having 65 shootings they had 63, and that’s my example. There are not enough policemen in China to stop what’s happening in black communities across this country.”

The police can’t be blamed for the underlying dysfunction of unemployment, disinvestment and sub-standard education services. But Corley says there’s plenty of blame for them to share. She cites as an example Philando Castile, the man shot near Minneapolis in his car by a police officer as his girl-friend live-steamed the entire event. Corley was there for NPR, too.

“Philando Castile seemed to be a target,” she claims. “He was stopped during his lifetime in 46 traffic stops. The first time he was stopped was before his 19th birthday when he still had his learner’s permit, and the last stop of course on July 6th. I believe that was the day when he died. But yeah, he was stopped. It was a life of traffic fines and being stopped by the police.”

Jackson adds that a major aspect of the sour police/community relations is recruitment. “There was a quote that came up once that I would like to repeat, ‘you cannot serve us if you don’t know us’ and that’s where we are with the Chicago Police Department. They are trying to serve and protect people that they don’t really know, and it’s never going to be as successful as it could be.”

Despite decades of trying, Jackson says the racial composition of the police force in troubled African-America neighborhoods is far out of sync with the communities.

“It is absolutely important. And my point is that a part of the fix for policing in Chicago has got to be adding more high quality African American candidates to the pool. It’s got to be. Now, I’m not blaming the Police Department here. Chicago Public Schools have a part in this as well in terms of producing people who can become candidates, but the Police Department if they are going to be successful they are going to have to be reflective of the communities that they are working to serve and protect.”

We talk at some length about the changes being brought about by the availability of video from dash-cams, body cams and civilian smart-phones. Corley says this could compare to another historic moment.

“When we look at all these cases and we look at all this video that comes through,” she says, “I often think about what made change happen. If you think about the Civil Rights Movement it was a photograph that kind of galvanized that with Emmett Till, right, when his mom decided I want the world to see this. And so what you have happening with these videos now is that people are seeing things that are happening and you have to believe, because a lot of times people don’t believe.”

Phillip Jackson tells us about a major effort to bring masses of people into the streets in ten of the most violence-plagued areas of the city during the Labor Day weekend. It’s being called Community Peace Surge, and it’s in response to the FOP’s call for police officers not to work overtime during the challenging weekend.



We ask him whether it will be difficult to convince people in the most violent neighborhoods to come out of their house and demonstrate their support. He acknowledges that it could be tough. But, he says, “You can live your life being afraid and probably the bad things that you think might happen they’re going to happen anyway, or you can live your life being unafraid and working towards the kind of community and the kind of City that you deserve.”

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CN Aug 11 2016


Imagine if your workplace introduced a new body-camera program. Every meeting,  every movement on the factory floor or in the delivery truck – all of it – gets uploaded each day to the company’s web site. And maybe a random hallway conversation, too. Make you a little edgy?

Well, Chicago got a whole group of new TV stars last week, but they weren’t exactly seeking fame. Three officers were relieved of their police powers and taken off the street pending an investigation into their handling of the Paul O’Neal shooting after their body cams revealed some questionable procedures.

We’re all in uncharted waters. The public has never had a nine-camera video compilation of a police shooting before, in high def with pretty crisp audio. It begins with a nail-biting high-speed run along South Shore streets as officers go searching for the now legendary black Jaguar. They find it – when it crashes head-on into them. And we have a front-seat view. In the adrenaline rush that drives the chase from the two smashed-up cars, it’s pretty clear that one of these officers is the individual who ends up shooting O’Neal in the back. Maybe it happened in the alley, but maybe he was already shot  in the car by other officers firing from behind. It’s an amazingly chaotic scene. But is it unusual? The video take us right into the middle of the action, where we’ve never been before. And it’s important not to rush to judgement.

(You can see all the videos, via the Tribune HERE.)

Jeremy Gorner has been covering the O’Neal shooting as part of the Tribune’s excellent crime beat. Carol Marin has covered police/community relations for decades on television and print.  Both join us today to help us understand the videos.

“What I believe superintendent Eddie Johnson saw and acted upon quickly were certain basic tenets that were violated,” Marin tells us. “Among them, you don’t draw your gun in the car. Why? Because you may be slamming on the brake and you may end up shooting in that car. You don’t fire at a moving vehicle that’s moving away from you when you don’t know who’s in there, and when the vehicle is the only thing right now at issue. Your life is not at stake. And when you’re firing you’re not firing at the same time that a police car is coming in, so that the trajectory of that bullet could go not just to the offender, but to your fellow officers.”

“I think there’s two issues here,” adds Gorner. “There’s, was the shooting justified or was the shooting because of lack of training. And I think that people look at that video, just from talking to experts, talking to other police officers there clearly were some serious training issues based on looking at that video. The problem is is that the actual fatal shot that killed Paul Neal we don’t know what happened because that wasn’t captured on camera.”

“For the first time we’re seeing how all this stuff kind of works, and I think it’s kind of an education for reporters too,” Gorner continues.” Whenever we go to crime scenes we have the lens from behind the yellow tape, and yeah, we can eavesdrop on what police are saying to grieving families, what they’re saying to witnesses the best that we could, but you know, this kind of takes you within a crime scene.”

The training issue seems to be the one thing on which most observers and stakeholders seem to agree.

Second City Cop is the blog that  gives voice to police and represents the views, often anonymously, of everyday officers. It was quick to identify poor training as a major culprit.

“They did,” says Marin, “and over three days and in pretty granular fashion they, and they said you may not like this fellow officers, you may not like this, and they raised among many issues the business of drawing your gun in a vehicle, firing at a moving car. They really dissected this with police eyes and with an eye to… A friend of mine is a brand new Chicago police officer, and I sent to a family member of his the Second City Cop citation saying for no other reason than just observe this as a training exercise. Take a look at what other police officers have decided to say. A lot of people don’t like Second City Cop. It can be a pretty toxic website, but it also can say some more trenchant things about what’s going on.”

But, says Marin, there are other issues, including the age-old discussion about diversity in policing.

“What we also saw from that video is that there wasn’t much diversity in an African American neighborhood. There was, I saw only, and I didn’t see all of them, but I think only one African American white-shirt, right, sergeant, I think an Hispanic officer…but virtually everyone else on the scene was white. And one of the complaints that you hear from the community and one of the issues raised by the taskforce that the Mayor appointed was that the community doesn’t see its face reflected in the people who patrol its neighborhoods.

So do the Mayor and Superintendent Johnson get credit for the remarkable release of video?

“I mean they had to do it, right?” asks Gorner.  “Laquan McDonald was a total game-changer, and had that video not been released who knows what changes would have been made or would have not have been made?”

“Or is it about time? ” Adds Marin. “And frankly, for those of us who are still fighting with Freedom of Information Act Requests, for the Law Department, Police Department, IPRA even under a new day we are still not getting the documents or the materials that the public is entitled to with the speed outlined under the law.”

We also talk about the CPD’s “predictive policing” program  in which the police attempt to predict who is in danger of being involved in serious trouble, such as getting shot or shooting someone else. And we ask whether the agreement with the ACLU earlier this year that resulted in the effective elimination of “contact cards” which were a favorite of former Sup’t McCarthy, and also resulted in a dramatic reduction of police stops, is related to he simultaneous spike in shootings.

Gorner says it’s not as easy a connection as it might seem. But there’s another possible factor – and it has to do with how much money some police officers can make.

“There’s an overtime program that was established for officers in the last few years. After Hadiya Pendleton died they boosted it where they put maybe a couple of hundred officers each day working in like the 20 most violent neighborhoods. And in order to be eligible for this overtime program you have to fulfill… It’s not a quota so to speak, but in a way it’s like, I don’t know, I mean they describe it as a quota. In order to be eligible for the overtime you have to make X-amount of arrests each month. And you’ve got to stop X-amount of people. That’s how it used to, I don’t know if it still is, and you have to write X-amount of contact cards…When the contact cards were around. So you figure, I mean a lot of police officers I talked to speculated that there’s an incentive to writing contact cards, because you want to get that extra money to work overtime”

And we ask whether the scathing report the Justice Department released this week on the Baltimore Police Department might the predictive of the one that’s still to come about the Chicago Police.

“It’s the template,” asserts Marin.  “It’s the template that the Justice Department will apply I think to this City as well. And if you look at what they wrote about Baltimore and you compare it what the taskforce analyzed about racism, police problems, governmental problems, the economy, the community, I think what you see in Baltimore is like a transparency you’re going to simply superimpose largely, and it’s what justice is going to say about Chicago.”



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CN August 4 2016


Pensions are back in the news. Mayor Emanuel wants massive increases in water and sewer fees to fund the big hole in the Municipal Employees pension plan – the fourth, last and largest of the City’s own pension funds.  The Fire, Police and Laborers pension plans have ben put on track to solvency, he says, with last year’s property tax increase and an imposition of telephone taxes, etc.

So, what of the teachers? The Chicago teachers pension fund, as we all know, is still way out of whack. But CPS did make its $600-million-plus payment recently, and CPS won its argument to get about $200 million annually from the state to help get the fund into a stable condition.


And there’s always a “but.” In this case, CPS only gets the money if the Legislature is able to pass “pension reform” before January 1. Considering that Chicago has been arguing about pension reform for decades, does that seem possible?

“Well,” opines Fred Klonsky, the highly regarded blogger and activist, “of course the first question that any teacher, any public employee who is dependent on a public pension for their retirement asks, what is that reform going to look like and who is going to pay for it? It wasn’t exactly clear when that story broke exactly what it meant and who was going to sit at the table to bargain or negotiate what the pension should look like, what pension reform would look like. Because when I look at it the only real pension reform that the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago can come up with is to figure out a way to raise enough revenue to pay its promise to the employees of the City and the State.”

See how easy this’ll be? Just make sure everybody gets paid, and everybody’s happy.

We talk about what could possibly be on that table, including later retirement, increased pension contributions for new hires and other plans that have often been proposed as “reforms.”

You can read a full transcript of this conversation in Word format HERE: CN transcript August 4 2016


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CN July 28 2016


Three of Chicago’s most knowledgeable political heavy-hitters are at the table this week to talk Hillary, Bill, Barack, Michelle and Bernie (and Rahm).

Bruce DuMont, host of Beyond the Beltway, gives us the quote of the day.

“I would say that at this particular point in time I believe that Donald Trump will be elected President of the United States.”

Jacky Grimshaw,  whose political service dates back to Mayor Washington’s administration, explains that she knows the feeling of being part of a losing political campaign, but doesn’t think there’s an excuse for interrupting , for example, Leon Panetta while he’s at the podium..

And Steve Edwards, of the Institute For Politics at the U of C, schools us in some very interesting electoral facts. “What gives Democrats some comfort is the idea that they’ve won the popular vote, the Presidential election five out of the last six times. They look at States that they won during those times. You add up those States and I don’t have the exact number, but it’s roughly 220 or 230 electoral votes,” he explains.

So there’s a historic base that favors the Dems. And remember, 270 is the winning number.

“You look at the same for Republicans,” he continues, and “it’s about 114 or something like that. So Democrats look at that and they say, ‘That’s terrific. You add to that the demographic numbers and you say in 1988 George H. W. Bush won about 60% of the white vote in a landslide. Mitt Romney won the same percentage of white voters and lost pretty handily to President Obama, and they say we’ve got demographics on our side.’”

But this, the panelists agree, is not a normal election. Both parties are dealing with seismic shifts in their electorates.

“I don’t think anyone back in July of last year thought that Donald Trump would be the nominee of the Republican Party,” Grimshaw tells us. “It was just too outrageous a thought to think that this huckster in a way, this carnival barker would end up being the nominee of the Republican Party.”

And few Democrats foresaw the Sanders “revolution”, either.  So both campaigns are fighting dual battles – to win over more votes, but also to hang on to the disillusioned portions of their bases.

For example, Edwards tells us the Democrats have never, ever won, in a national election, the college-educated white vote.  Even today Donald Trump is leading in that category. And that battle really comes down to a razor-thin margin between 70 and 74% white voters. If 70% or lower of the total electorate is white, the Democrats will do well. 74% or higher, that’s good for the Republicans.

There’s much, much more in this hour-long discussion about the inside workings of politics. And an interesting diversion into the political fortunes of our nationally-diminished Mayor.

The bottom line: Three experts, with widely differing experience and opinions, agree that this presidential election is far from a sure thing.

You can read a full transcript of this how, in Word format, HERE:CN Transcript July 28 2016



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CN July 21 2016


Carolyn Grisko and Chris Robling have been in the political  and communications consulting business for years. They’re as experienced in their fields as anyone you’ll find in Chicago. But they admit they didn’t see Trump coming.

“When he said, the Mexicans coming here are rapists and murderers,” Grisko remembers,  that was the moment that I thought, all right, this is a ten-minute campaign. It wouldn’t even be conceivable to me.”

But, as we know, it didn’t happen that way.

Grisko and Robling don’t agree much on the issues, but all three of us have known one another since our days together in the 80’s, so it was an energetic, but respectable conversation.

No time to sit and watch? How about grabbing our new Soundcloud link, where you can listen to this show on your personal device? (And you can always subscribe, so Soundcloud will send you a link every week.) LISTEN to this week’s show here.

AND, here’s the complete transcript of this show, in WORD format:CN transcript July 21 2016

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